By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Legends are never far away from the game they love, no matter how retired they are.
Just ask former Troy and Troy Christian football coach Steve Nolan.
“I feel like Brett Favre,” he said with a laugh.
Nolan, who coached at Troy High School for 28 years until 2011 and then at Troy Christian from 2013 to 2015, announced that he is returning to Troy Christian to serve as the head varsity football coach once more entering the 2020 season.
“We’re going to go back and do some work at Troy Christian,” Nolan said. “I had a great relationship with them there before, and now I’m ready to go back and help them out as I’ve done in the past.”
Nolan was 17-12 during his first tenure at Troy Christian, including an 8-4 season in 2014 and the Eagles’ first postseason win in more than a decade. He now takes over for Jeff Weaver, who resigned after one season and went 4-6 in 2019.
“Obviously, we’re extremely excited and proud that he’s made the decision to return to Troy Christian,” Troy Christian athletic director Jeff Sakal said. “He’s extremely familiar with Troy Christian and our ministry, and he definitely brings assets to us with his experience, leadership, wisdom and football knowledge, which is second to none.”
Nolan built his legend at Troy High School, where he won more than 200 games and ran off a string of 15 consecutive winning seasons in addition to all of the league titles and playoff appearances before stepping down in 2011 after back-to-back postseason appearances.
In 2013, he took the job at Troy Christian, which had not fielded a team the previous season due to low numbers. After a 4-4 first season, the Eagles went 8-4 in Nolan’s second year, qualifying for the postseason and even winning a first-round playoff game. After going 6-4 in 2015 and narrowly missing the playoffs, Nolan retired.
“I never lost touch with the game,” Nolan said. “I’ve helped some other teams with video things, and there’s some people at Troy Christian that were there the first time that I’ve stayed in contact with. They’re in a situation where they’re going to go into a new league soon, and there’s some issues that I’m more familiar with that I think I can help them with.
“I’m excited to get back and do some of those things.”
Ryan Jones picked up where Nolan left off in 2016, going 9-2 and reaching the playoffs. Jones left for Versailles after the Eagles went 8-2 and narrowly missed the playoffs in 2018, and the team went 4-6 last season under Weaver.
“There’s just some things as you go through this world, you see some things that you might be able to help people with,” Nolan said. “There’s good kids out there, and it’s a good community school. It’s an opportunity to get them going hopefully on the right path.”
One thing that has hampered Troy Christian since returning to the gridiron in 2013 has been its indepent status. Without a league to play in, the Eagles have had to search all over the state for opponents to patch together a schedule, with results all over the board.
In 2019, the combined record of the six teams that defeated Troy Christian was 51-18, including five playoff teams. One was McComb, the previous year’s Division VII state champion, and another was Lucas, which was the D-VII state runner up last year. on the flip side, the combined record of the teams the Eagles defeated was 7-31.
“It’s been a scheduling nightmare, and it makes it really difficult to have a good program because you’re all over the place,” Nolan said. “You go from the top to the bottom with that schedule. They played teams like McComb and Lucas, who was in the state championship game, at the top to playing teams at the bottom. How do you prepare for that? As a player or a family in that situation, how do you prepare for things?”
But now the Eagles are preparing to enter the newly-formed Three Rivers Conference, which will begin play in fall of 2021. Along with Troy Christian, members of the conference will be fellow Miami County schools Bethel, Covington, Miami East and Milton-Union, along with nearby Lehman Catholic, Northridge and Riverside.
“I was really fortunate when I was at Troy to play in the GMVC so long and then the GWOC. You always had a league, built-in rivalries that kids grew up with, and it’s been really difficult at Troy Christian,” Nolan said. “So now there’s an opportunity to get into a league, and I think they want to be prepared for that a little better. And hopefully we can get some of those things accomplished.”
And Nolan’s primary goal is to help the Eagles not only prepare for competition in a league again, but also to rebuild the foundations of a program that can sustain itself for the long haul.
“We’re trying to line things up to build a program that will be functional for years,” Nolan said. “To play those types of teams, we’ve got to get a program going. Hopefully we can build it up and be competitive year in and year out and really start establish a little more pride in the school, which is the kind of thing I’ve always been about.”
Contact Josh Brown at jb[email protected], or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
©2020 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.